The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of a Christian girl who was ordered out of homeschooling and into a public school.
Attorneys for 10-year-old Amanda Kurowski argue that the lower court judge overstepped its authority when it determined that it would be in the best interest of the student to explore and examine new things, other than Christianity.
"Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That's precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that's where our concern lies," said Alliance Defense Fund- allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton.
The daughter of divorced parents, Amanda has been homeschooled by her mother, Brenda Voydatch, since first grade. Her father, Martin Kurowski, is opposed to homeschooling, arguing that it prevents "adequate socialization" for Amanda with other children. He requested that she be placed in a government school.
In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the Guardian ad Litem – who acts as a fact finder for the court – reported that Amanda was found to "lack some youthful characteristics," partly because "she appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith."
Ms. Voydatch insisted that she does not push religion on Amanda and said her daughter's choice to share her religious beliefs is a free choice.
The court, however, determined that "Amanda's vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view" and that enrolling her in a public school would expose her to a variety of points of view.
At the same time, the court found the girl to be "well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level."
Nevertheless, Judge Lucinda V. Sadler approved the GAL's recommendation earlier this summer and ruled that it would be in Amanda's best interests to attend a public school in the 2009-2010 academic year.
Simmons filed a motion to reconsider and stay the order. But the judge denied the motions and stated that the girl "is at an age when it can be expected that she would benefit from the social interaction and problem solving she will find in public school, and granting a stay would result in a lost opportunity for her."
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson responded, "We are concerned anytime a court oversteps its bounds to tread on the right of a parent to make sound educational choices, or to discredit the inherent value of the homeschooling option. The lower court effectively determined that it would be a 'lost opportunity' if a child's Christian views are not sifted and challenged in a public school setting. We regard that as a dangerous precedent."